Archive for the Max Zhang Category

Review: Killzone 2 (SPL 2: A Time For Consequences) (2016)

Posted in Jacky Wu Jing, Max Zhang, Tony Jaa on July 19, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

killzone2-2

Starring Tony Jaa. Wu Jing, Zhang Jin (Max Zhang), Simon Yam, Ken Lo, Louis Koo

Fight Choreography by Chi Li Chung

Directed by Soi Cheang

The first Killzone was the first of what would be a run of films that would move Donnie Yen into his rightful place as one of the martial arts’ world’s legendary talents, going right up there with Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Sammo Hung. Now we come to Killzone 2, starring Wu Jing and Tony Jaa, both men needing hits after the nonsense that was Wolf Warrior and The Protector 2 respectively.

Wu Jing stars as Chi Kit Chang, and undercover cop who is close to busting a crime ring run by Mun-Gong Hung (Louis Koo, almost unrecognizable) a drug lord who is in need of a replacement heart, one he intends to collect from a compatible donor, his own brother. Chi Kit is betrayed, and tossed in a Thai prison, where he meets Chatchai (Jaa) a desperate man who needs to get a compatible liver for his young daughter, who will die soon unless she gets a transplant. He discovers that Chi Kit has such a liver. Of course complications occur when Hung’s right hand man Hung Ko (Zhang) is the warden of the prison that holds Chi Kit, and Chi Kits handler  Wah Kwok Chan (Yam) has his niece kidnapped by Hung. Can Chi Kit and Chatchai save both themselves and live long enough to save Chatchai’s daughter?

SPL 2

I was skeptical about how a Killzone without Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung would play out, especially with Simon Yam and Wu Jing, who were in the first film, now playing different characters in the second. I needn’t have worried. Killzone 2 is its own film, but toward the climax, it ramps up the tension, especially if you’ve seen the first film. Many story beats repeat themselves, but the ending of those…you’ll have to see for yourself! Wu Jing is pitiable as the Chi Kit, his situation becoming more and more deadly the further things go. The same holds true for Tony Jaa, who does a good job here, but really the star here is Max Zhang. Proving his star turn in Ip Man 3 was no fluke, he makes a formidable and ruthless prison warden, and his onscreen charisma is evident. I think we may have found the next big Chinese martial arts star! The directing by Soi Cheang is spot on, and he finds the humanity of each character in every frame, and the story maximizes the drama, which is well written here.

Killzone2-1

The fights here are nothing short of brutal…but in the best way possible. It merges what we’ve seen in recent martial arts films with the Thai films of Tony Jaa, and it’s a marriage made in heaven (Tony is still missing Panna Rittikrai). The prison riot is one of the standouts, maybe even besting the prison fight in The Raid 2, but the final fight between Wu Jing and Tony Jaa versus Max Zhang is stunningly great, up there with the best of them. There is a little wirework, but its kept to a minimum.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Killzone 2 is a great return to form for both Tony Jaa and Wu Jing, in a taunt thriller with great fight scenes and a showstopper of a final fight. (Max) Zhang Jin is a bonafide star, and this film cements it. A very worthy sequel to the original. 

The film is out TODAY from the good folks at Wellgousa!

 

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Review: Ip Man 3 (2015)

Posted in Chao Chen, Donnie Yen, Lo Meng (Turbo Law), Max Zhang, Mike Tyson, Wilson Yip, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , , on April 19, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

02_IP MAN 3_Courtesy of Well Go USA_0

Starring Donnie Yen, Lynn Hung, Max Zhang, Lo Meng, Chao Chen, Sarut Khanwali, Mike Tyson, Kent Cheng

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Wilson Yip

Donnie Yen has recently stated that he is basically retiring from film, that he’s said all he wants to say in regards to martial arts. After seeing Kung Fu Killer, I was inclined to agree. Now that I’ve seen Ip Man 3, it’s a certainty (of course before he retires we get Donnie Yen….IN SPACE! ). It’s customary for the third film of a series to be inferior to the two films that preceded it. There are only a few examples of films whose third film was the equal or better than its predecessors, and Ip Man 3 is one of those films, but I was surprised as to the reason why.

Donnie Yen returns as Ip Man, many years after the events of Ip Man 2, and Ip Man is once again prosperous in 1960’s Hong Kong. His Wing Chun school is thriving, he is well-respected in the community, basically placing him back in the position he was in before the events of the first Ip Man took it all away. Hong Kong also seems like its doing well, but it’s not. There are too few police to handle the growing numbers of people. and crime is running rampant. Fatso (Cheng) tries to keep order, but finds himself once again under the command of a corrupt British commander, who takes his orders from Frank (Tyson) a ruthless property owner who now targets the school Ip Man’s son attends as his next conquest. Ip Man finds himself defending the school from Frank’s goons, while navigating a rickshaw driver (Zhang) who may be as skilled in Wing Chun as Ip Man and looks to start his own school, and Ip Man’s wife Cheung Wing-Sing gets devastating news that will alter their lives forever.

01_IP MAN 3_Courtesy of Well Go USA_1

The film is a triumph by Wilson Yip, and the story feels like an organic continuation of the series. The film never forgets the events of the previous films, and does quite a few call backs. Ip Man vs. Ten Men? Sure. To the bad guys, the events of the first Ip Man are nothing more than legend. Surely Ip Man never fought and beat ten black belts? The film even begins how the second film ended: with an adult Bruce Lee looking to train under Ip Man. The film does a great job of resolving Bruce Lee without actually telling that side of the story. Donnie Yen once again does a great job as Ip Man, and his acting has improved, which is needed to as there are quite a few emotional scenes for him. Mike Tyson is adequate as the bad guy Frank, but thankfully you won’t see him very much. Better served is Max Zhang as the rickshaw driver Cheung Tin-chi. He’s a driven,  conflicted man, coming from nothing but has the will to achieve his goals no matter what, and the problem with that is he’s a good man who may have to do bad things in order to achieve his dreams, and Ip Man is the final obstacle standing in his way.

The surprise of the film was Lynn Hung as Cheung Wing-sing. Her story arc drives the final half of the film, and she is excellent. I never really warmed to her character through the first two films, as I never understood how she is always upset when Ip Man either fights or studies his arts, even though those very things have provided her with her lifestyle, and has represented China countless times. This time her story arc recognizes her contradictions, and brings her character full circle by the end of the film as she realizes that Ip Man doesn’t just study Wing Chun, Ip Man IS Wing Chun, as much as the sky is blue and water is wet.

04_IP MAN 3_Courtesy of Well Go USA_0

I had thought that Yuen Woo Ping was losing his skills as a fight choreographer, but nope. He’s at his best here, and the fight scenes are plentiful and all of them are excellent. From the Ip Man vs Ten men fight, with a new wrinkle put in, the massive battles with what appears to be Ip Man fighting half of China, to his duel with Mike Tyson, and the bring-down-the-house finale versus Max Zhang in a Wing Chun vs. Wing Chun fight for the ages. Every fight is imaginative, bone-crunching, fast-paced affairs that really outdo the previous films, and that’s not even mentioning the terrific Wing Chun vs Muay Thai elevator fight between Donnie Yen and Sarut Khanwilai. Really, the weakest fight was Donnie Yen vs Mike Tyson, in that is was short, and Ip Man already faced this kind of fight with Twister (the late great Darren Shahlavi).

The only thing missing from this film was the late Fung Hak-on as the best friend of Master Law (Lo Meng).

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip bring the Ip Man trilogy to a satisfying conclusion, culminating in one of the best one on one fights in recent memory. Kung Fu cinema fans, it simply doesn’t get better than this!